By Sophie Barnett
The chairman of a co-operative that supplies 285 local authority outlets with fresh produce has welcomed a further government pledge to encourage similar schemes.
Graham Ward is chairman of Public Sector Produce Supplies, a co-operative of eight Yorkshire vegetable and salad growers that recently secured a £700,000 annual contract to supply schools, care homes and similar bodies within the Leeds City Council area.
The initiative is exactly the type being encouraged by the Government, which last week called on local authority staff buying food for schools, fire and rescue service, leisure centres and social care institutions to turn to more sustainable procurement.
It stressed that buying produce from a local supplier is not only better for the environment and regional economy but can also result in efficiency savings being made because the food has less distance to travel.
As part of the Government’s Strategy for Sustainable Farming & Food (SSFF), purchasing staff from local authorities across the East Midlands are being invited to the latest workshop this month to teach them how to source locally.
While welcoming the Government’s continued support, Ward said local authorities are often under a lot of pressure to make such schemes work.
He said: “We welcome the Government’s interest in regional and local sourcing. We hope they’re successful in getting the message through to people but local authorities are often under too much financial pressure and bureaucracy to make these things work. We’re doing 285 deliveries every day — that’s quite a logistical nightmare.”
He said everyone had to work more to make the public understand seasonality and local sourcing boundaries better, if local authorities and suppliers were to be more successful in winning people over.
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